January 03, 2017

Tyrus Wong

Last week, the legendary Tyrus Wong passed away. He was a Chinese immigrant who spent the majority of his career being marginalized; his work often going unrecognized because of his race.
It was for his work on Disney’s Bambi, that Wong is perhaps most recognized for today, although, that took some time.

Inspired by the landscape paintings of the Song Dynasty, Wong created exquisite water-color and pastel landscape paintings that would inspire the entire look of the film. Walt Disney loved his work so much that he was unofficially promoted as the films “inspirational sketch artist.”

Wong spent two years creating the illustrations that ultimately inspired the look and feel of the film Bambi. When animators and special effects artists had questions about color or lighting, they went to Wong. His work inspired everything from the tone of the film, to the special effects and the music.
Even though his work influenced the look and feel of the film, Wong’s named appeared at almost the bottom of Bambi’s credits as a background artist.

Shortly after his work on Bambi ended, Wong, who had taken no part in them, was let go because of the animator’s strikes at Disney. Wong held no resentment toward the studio, believing that they had treated him good.

In 1942 he joined Warner Bros. where he worked as a storyboard artist, designer, and background artist until his retirement in 1968.

Since his retirement he’s done work primarily as a painter and also worked as a muralist, ceramicist, lithographer, designer and later in life; a kite maker. In the 90′s he had a sort of resurgence as he became widely recognized for his work in fine art and painting.

Wong spent the majority of his career breaking racial barriers, not letting himself be constrained by the lines set down by others and in 2001 he finally got the recognition he deserved for his work on Bambi; and was honored as a Disney Legend in their Hall of Fame program.


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